Pick a Number

PICK A NUMBER….Barry Schwartz writes that the insane levels of anxiety to get admitted to top universities today is, well, insane. What’s more, the “principle of the flat maximum” tells us that it’s pretty much impossible to predict performance within a tiny group of superstars at the top of the bell curve. So he suggests that we quit trying: elite universities should simply choose students by lottery from among the entire group that meets their standards:

At the very least, colleges and universities should consider doing the following experiment: Put a random half of the applicants through the normal admissions process and the other half through a “good enough/luck of the draw” admissions process. Then track the performance of the students admitted from these two sets of applicants over the course of their college careers.

If there are no major differences in performance between these two groups, then by publicly adopting the “good enough” practice, schools can take a lot of the pressure off high school students so that they can be curious, interested kids again.

That sounds like a very cool experiment. Who wants to go first?